According to research analytics firm SuperData, demand for Half-Life: Alyx drove VR sales sharply skywards in Q4. Valve, in particular, was the beneficiary of this trend: Sales of the company’s $999 Index VR system more than doubled from Q3 to Q4, specifically because of the HL:A announcement.
It’s hard to believe that the Oculus Rift launched four years ago this March, but here we (almost) are. SuperData’s results show two distinct trends emerging in VR,
with console and wireless sales leading the pack.
What would be particularly interesting to know, in my opinion, is how much Oculus Quest sales increased in Q4 relative to Q3, and whether any of that increase is theorized to be from Half-Life: Alyx as well. SuperData claims that “The Index sold more units than any other PC VR headset during the quarter despite a steep price of up to $1,000.”
As of Q4, there’s reason to quibble with that statement. While the Oculus Quest is still primarily an untethered headset, gamers now have the option to tether it to their PCs for playing games like… Half-Life: Alyx. The announcement that tethered support had been added to the headset was covered widely, and the Quest might have seen a sales bump as a result.
Sony, however, continues to rule the relative VR roost, with 338K sales thus far. The company hasn’t unveiled anything about a new PSVR for the PS5, though we know the current model will remain compatible with the system.
One of the differences between Microsoft and Sony is the degree of PC integration they offer. Microsoft’s ownership of Windows has put them well ahead on this front, as far as streaming games locally or via Xbox Game Pass. A future PS5 VR headset that was compatible with PCs and offered access to any unique VR content in Sony’s ecosystem would be a carrot the company could offer interested PC VR gamers that Microsoft can’t match.
At the same time, however, it does seem that sales of the Index were uniquely modified by HL:A. SuperData notes that they believe Valve would’ve sold even more units if it hadn’t run out of stock. There’s no mention of the HTC Vive anywhere, which isn’t necessarily surprising. While the initial Vive sold very well, HTC has taken very little effort to evolve or expand the product. The Vive was arguably better out of the gate, but Oculus is the only company that’s been regularly iterating on multiple designs.
If Half-Life: Alyx can drive this much VR engagement before the game even launches, a smash hit could transform the entire market. It would be the height of irony for Valve — one of the companies that drove the original shift to 3D graphics, courtesy of Half-Life — also provided a title that drove early adoption of a different, fundamentally new approach to gaming.
It would also be really, really, annoying.
But I’ll take it.
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